A Step-by-Step Guide to Transporting Your Dog Across the Country

Patrick MacFarland Patrick MacFarland · Updated January 16, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book
Step-by-step guide for dog transportation across the country.

If you’re about to move long distances and own a pet, you undoubtedly plan to bring her along with you. Pets are our family members after all! However, unlike humans, it can be logistically challenging to transport a dog long-distance. If you need to know more about transporting your dog across the country, we can provide some guidance.

Preparing Your Pet for the Journey

To prepare for your long-distance move and embark on your journey, it’s important to make sure your pet is prepared for the trip. This includes making sure your pet meets all health requirements, has the necessary vaccinations, and is well-behaved.

Health Requirements

First, confirm your pet is healthy enough for the journey:

  • Take her to a USDA-registered veterinarian for a check-up.
  • Make sure all her vaccinations are up to date.
  • Ask the vet for a copy of your pet’s medical records, which is called a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI).
  • You’ll need that health certificate (or CVI) as a proof of health when you arrive at your destination.


Your pet will also need to have all the necessary vaccinations for the journey. This may include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and other vaccinations depending on the age of your dog and which state you’re traveling to.

Ask your veterinarian for advice on which vaccinations are needed and get them at least two weeks before the trip.

Understanding Your Pet Transport Options

When it comes to pet travel, specifically transporting your dog across the country, you have three main options: air travel, taking a road trip with your canine pal or hiring a professional pet transportation company.

Air Travel

Air travel is usually the fastest option for pet shipping. However, it’s usually the most expensive, has extremely limited options for dogs and is the least reliable approach.

  • Airlines have different size and weight requirements for pet carriers.
  • Most airlines only allow pets in the cabin (usually only cats and dogs) and have put a freeze on flying dogs in cargo.
  • The maximum weight for a dog to fly in the cabin is usually around 25 pounds.
  • The few carriers that allow dogs in cargo won’t allow snub-nosed dog breeds like boxers or French bulldogs.
  • If the weather is too hot or cold, airlines won’t allow pets in the cargo area.

Call the airline of your choice ahead of time to see if they offer pet transport services and the type of pet they take. You also need to keep in mind that you have to keep your pet in the crate at all times. If they do, inquire about health requirements and documentation, what kind of carrier you need and any other rules and regulations they may have. If you plan to fly with your dog, planning ahead is the key.

Road Trip

The most economical way to get your dog across the country is by driving with your pet with a fun road trip. If you have the time and experience on the road, this is a great option — think of it as an adventure like Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.

Of course, there are significant downsides to the DIY approach. First of all, most of us aren’t professional drivers; you can’t just attach their leash to a seatbelt. There’s products you need to buy to ensure you keep your pet safe. If the weather is bad or there are other issues on the road, you may not be prepared. Additionally, it’s the most time-consuming approach. Most of us don’t have the time to spend weeks on the road.

Professional Pet Transportation Companies

Hiring a professional is the best balance between convenience and affordability. Pet transportation companies specialize in moving pets across the country — best of all, most of them offer door-to-door service!

There are some transportation companies that offer air nanny services, but most are ground based.

An alternative to traditional pet transportation companies is a marketplace like CitizenShipper. Most pet transporters will quote you a price up front after learning the details of the shipment.

With CitizenShipper, multiple transporters compete for your business, driving down the costs. Because many of these transporters are already on the road transporting other dogs, you can get a more affordable price.

Of course, sometimes the best transporters charge a little more for their experience and equipment. That’s why it’s free to go through quotes, chat with transporters and browse their profiles before booking.

Planning the Trip

Now that your pet is ready for the trip, it’s time to start planning the journey. This includes booking the trip, packing for the trip, and getting your pet to the departure location.

Booking the Trip

If you’re flying with your pet, you’ll need to call the airline ahead of time to ask about their pet transport services. Right now, the only airlines that allow dogs in the cargo area are Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines — so if you have a larger dog, that’s the best starting point.

For those with small dogs that can fly in the cabin, you have more options. Again, call ahead to learn the details of pet transportation on an individual airline.Make sure to book your pet’s flight at least two weeks in advance; some airlines only allow a couple pets per flight.

Route Planning

If you’re driving your pet across the country, start planning your route as soon as possible. You should map out potty breaks, book rooms at pet-friendly hotels and decide on how many miles per day you can drive.

Call Transporters or Use a Marketplace

If you’re hiring ground transportation services, you have two options. You can call around to traditional transporters or fill out an online form to get a quote. Typically quotes from traditional ground transport companies aren’t very flexible, though some may offer a little wiggle room.

Using a marketplace is another option. This gives you a greater range of options as there are usually some transporters that are just getting started and will offer lower prices. Others have been on the road for decades and as such, charge a bit more. It’s completely up to you, your pets needs and your budget which option you choose.

Packing for the Trip

When packing for the trip, make sure to bring all the essentials your pet will need. This includes food, water, a bowl, toys, and a bed. You should also bring a first aid kit in case of any emergencies. It’s also a good idea to bring along a copy of your pet’s medical records as well as any necessary documents for crossing state lines or international borders.

Tips for When You’re Moving Across the Country with Pets

If the reason you’re moving with your pet across country is a big move, here are some simple tips to make it easier for him.

  1. Get him used to seeing moving supplies and moving boxes. And make sure the moving company knows about your pet.
  2. Don’t change the routine you have with your pet. Stick to the schedule!
  3. Pack his items last and unpack them first once you arrive.
  4. Arrange the pet transport prior to moving day, so you don’t have to run around making plans instead of focusing on the long-distance move.
  5. Pet-proof your new home when you arrive!